written January 1st but applicable to any new beginning
Today is traditionally a day of resolutions: I will eat more healthy. I will exercise more. I will spend more time with my family. To be honest, I’m just horrible with resolutions. Even if I make just one, I can do that one thing regularly… for a while… and then life comes crashing in and I find that my resolution (and all my good intentions) go right out the window. I just can’t handle looking at life over a long period of time. Too many things happen that make demands upon me… demands on my time, on my emotions, on my energy, on my focus.
Thankfully, the Lord understands. The Lord Jesus taught us to focus on today and not to worry about the future. Not to worry about that bill that has to be paid or whether or not we’ll have enough energy to face the next tragedy or whatever life throws at us. It’s not that these things aren’t important, but there is a way to face them that allows God to take care of what’s important and, by doing that, allows us to focus then on what’s important.
Matthew 6:25-34 NRSV
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you — you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Our focus is to be on striving for the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And that’s a day-to-day effort. It can’t be an effort of tomorrow for we don’t know where we will be tomorrow. If we are in heaven tomorrow, then there is no effort, for all sin will be gone and serving Him will be the joy and delight of our hearts. If we are here on earth tomorrow, then His Spirit will supply what we need for that day. So our focus needs to be on today… serving Him today, praying today, sharing the gospel today, staying away from sin today.
That certainly changes the idea of resolutions in my mind and actually changes the way I feel about the first day of a new year. Today isn’t a new day because it is January 1st, but rather today is a new day because — like very other day — it is the first day of the rest of my life. In 1972, after hearing the phrase from my mom (who loved it and wrote many articles about it), my Aunt Audrey (Mieir) wrote a song about this:
Today is the first day of the rest of my life
Yesterday is gone with all its toil and its strife
I will entrust Him with all my tomorrows
I will accept all its joys and its sorrows
Now is the moment, the past all is done
The rest of my days have now already begun
I’ll make today the best of my life
For today is the first day of the rest of my life.(© 1972 Manna Music. International copyright secured. All rights reserved.)
There is so much truth in this song. First, yesterday is gone. The only things left of yesterday are our deeds. If those deeds are sin and we are believers, then the sin is covered by the blood of the Lord Jesus. If those deeds glorify God, then we will receive rewards later in heaven. (Those are the only two options.)
Tomorrow, if it is here on earth, will bring joy and sorrow, but that’s already taken care of by the Lord. He has promised to make all things work for our good (Romans 8:28), so there’s really no need to concern ourselves with it.
That leaves today and today only. And there is so much for today!
First there is prayer. Our first thought in the day should be to look to heaven for our marching orders. Our loving Father has already mapped out the perfect day for us if we will but allow Him to direct our path. S. D. Gordon said, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray before you have prayed.”
Second, we can become better than we think we can be because of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord’s Spirit wants to live inside us, to infill us, overwhelm us, take control of every aspect of our lives. We have the capacity and possibility of being loving, kind, gentle, joyful, self-controlled — not because of anything around us — but because He is living inside us and He is all these things!
Third, there is a world out there that needs Jesus and we may be the only Jesus someone ever sees. Those around us need our smiles, our sacrificial love, the joy that comes from His Spirit within us. Whatever God has given to us, we need to think of it as resources for today… not just for our own needs, but for the needs of those around us. He has given us much so that we, in turn, can give to everyone that comes into our path. More than anyone else in the world, we can afford to be generous because our Father in turn is generous to us.
So, on this first day of a new year, I want so much more than simply resolutions and a new year. I want to remember that today — each and every “today” — is the first day of the rest of my life! I want to pour into it all that the Lord has given me so that, on that day when my today is in heaven, He will look at me and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”